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Could novelty betting markets ruin the gambling industry?

MasterChef betting
DIANA Chan took out the MasterChef 2017 title on Monday night in what some viewers dubbed an epic finale.

Others called her nail-biting win over Ben Ungermann a contrived and farcical waste of time.

Social media was awash with criticism of a showdown that seemed to drag on for an eternity.

There was also plenty of disagreement as to whether Diana deserved the win.

Despite serving up a final dish that lacked essential elements, the Victorian was awarded nine points out of 10 by Matt Preston.

Conveniently, that was just enough to seal a 90-89 result.

But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the evening was an editing blunder that highlighted some serious concerns with the current MasterChef format.

Although Diana was awarded the victory, one scene appeared to suggest the producers were hardly tied down to that outcome.

Eagle-eyed viewers pointed out a scoreboard display that showed Diana with 89 points and Ben with 90.

That gaffe is further evidence of a dirty little secret to which the show’s stars have already confessed.

In a radio interview prior to Monday’s broadcast, Preston revealed that two separate endings were filmed for the MasterChef finale.

“That’s one of the hard things we do today – we sit down with Ben and Diana, and we re-create the last moment,” he said.

“We re-create the final reveal of the scores, complete with the same scorecards, so they actually stand there with their loved ones and get to watch the real thing unfold.

“So one of them has been sitting there for a couple of months not knowing.

“There is normally a situation where the winner kind of suspects but can’t let themselves admit to it, and the loser is hoping against hope that that six is going to be upside down and it’s going to be a nine.”

That might make for a gripping eleventy-odd hours of telly, but what does it mean for the burgeoning betting industry that has grown up around reality programming?

In a Tweet sent out on Monday afternoon, online bookmaker claimed to have taken more wagers on the MasterChef finale than it had for Sunday’s AFL clash between Collingwood and West Coast.

That is quite a stunning statement when you consider the vast amounts of money punters pour into Australian football betting these days.

It also raises the question: should bookies be taking bets on novelty markets when the outcome can be so shamelessly manipulated?

People who backed Ben in the MasterChef finale would be livid to learn that a backdoor focus group or the whims of a producer had turned the result on its head.

In sport, that kind of wanton script-flipping is called match fixing.

The fact that reality TV does not occur live in real-time only adds to the murky nature of the gambling scene that surrounds it.

Therein lies perhaps the biggest problem: that original television programming is not subject to anything like the integrity laws or codes of conduct that govern sports betting and horse racing.

As an industry that has never been taken seriously, there is no specialised regulatory framework for novelty betting.

Millions of Aussie punters have overlooked that rather critical distinction, perhaps because the markets in question seem so harmless and simple on the surface.

Novelties are often promoted as straight-up outright bets, which makes them easy for first-timers and casual gamblers to comprehend.

At face value, it seems like a quicker, simpler way to win money than studying the form for a horse race or a football match.

Learning how to handicap takes years of practice, but six weeks on the couch eating Tim Tams is enough to make anyone a bona fide expert on The Bachelor.

If left unchecked, who knows what kind of impact this curious modern phenomenon could have on the racing and sports betting industries?